LQ Interview Green Bar Distillery Owner Litty Matthew

April 2018

A few months ago, I had a chance to visit Greenbar Distillery in downtown. Litty Mathew, one of the founders and makers, had invited me for a personal tour after enjoying a cassoulet night at LQ Foodings.  Cassoulet night can do that!

As Los Angeles’ original distillery, she and her husband, Melkon Khosrovian, have been making spirits since 2004. They make pretty much everything you can think of – vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, amaro, liqueurs and even bitters.

What makes these organic spirits interesting to a chef is the use of real ingredients, just like in cooking. I was intrigued so we collaborated on a cocktail pairing dinner with Greenbar Distillery earlier in the year. It was really fun and we’ll be doing it again.

I had a chance to ask Litty a few questions about Greenbar Distillery’s unique approach to liquor and I thought you’d enjoy the answers:

Laurent: So Litty. Welcome to my blog.

Litty: Thank you, Laurent! No one’s ever invited me inside one.

Laurent: What struck me on our distillery tour was how you look at everything as if it were a cooking ingredient. You talked about the wood you use to age your SLOW HAND whiskey as an ingredient. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Litty: It’s true that we have a culinary approach to making spirits, even whiskey. For Melkon and me, the act of eating and drinking shouldn’t be separated. Therefore, there’s got to be certain tasty harmony. And regarding the six woods we use in the SLOW HAND whiskey, each one has a unique taste that reminds me of stuff we eat. The hard maple wood tastes like butterscotch and the red oak tastes like clove and cinnamon.

Laurent: Are you trying to replace wine at the dinner table?

Litty: Don’t get jealous, wine. Cocktails made with Greenbar Distillery spirits add a dimension to the meal because you can mix flavors from the meal into the cocktail. Remember at our first cocktail pairing dinner, you made a sea urchin chawan mushi, which is like a Japanese style savory egg custard? We paired that with a cocktail made with TRU lemon vodka and shiso leaf. You can’t add shiso leaf to wine is all I’m saying.

Laurent: Okay. That was a nice drink. It is fun to change things up because it’s like being on an adventure.

Litty: Adventures in flavor.

Laurent: What I like about you guys is you’re bringing life to something commercial. Alcohol used to be more about lifestyle and entertaining. You’re changing the boundaries of what is acceptable at the dining room. Do you see yourselves that way?

Litty: Thanks! We are trying to change the way people think of spirits. There’s such a disconnect between eating beautiful, locally grown food yet consuming vodka that came in a plastic jug. I hope we’re helping to take the blinders off.  When folks try Greenbar spirits, they’re delighted by the taste. Our spirits do belong on the dining table because that’s the place we  had in mind when created them.

Laurent: So when you’re not making spirits, what are you doing?

Litty: Eating! Ha ha. I adore coming to your dinners because you have, how do you say in French, and I’m sure you’ll correct me if I say it wrong…ouverture d’esprit. You’re fearless with flavor. I admire that.


“Closing Spring 2017 season” Hello Summer

June 2017

Our Spring series (Series 1.0 – 5.0) ends this weekend June 9th and 10th. Au revoir to one of our favorite seasons, since we are harvesting the bounty that mother nature gives us, and especially from Apricot Lane Farms. Chef drives there weekly, and picks up what is the best for the week. Needless to say, it’s his favorite day of the week!
We are starting the summer season with a bang on June 30! Tickets are available now for June and July on our Foodings page. Tomatoes from our garden will be irresistible in a few weeks, so treat yourself, and join us for our 6 courses of tomatoes paired with Rose wines from around the world, on July 7th. Heaven!
Apricot Lane Farms has been the perfect partner to us. John and Molly, the owners, are so committed to growing the best produce possible. Not only that, their live stock program keeps on growing, so soon we will be able to get their beautiful hens for our events.
All of their animals roams free and feed on pasture. That’s what sustainable farming is about,  and what makes it such a pleasure as a chef. To work with only the best ingredients makes work a joy.So, yes, after 2 months of SOLD OUT “Celebrating Spring” dinners we are making room for Summer with its bounty of gorgeous ingredients from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and we could not be more delighted. See you in July and August….

The last Menu of the Spring 2017 “Closing the Season”

LQ Fooding“Last Spring Series”
Breads by “Bread Lounge”, Olive oil by “Carre des Huiles”, Vegetables & Herbs by Apricot Lane Farms and our own garden whenever possible

1st Course
 Haricot Vert
Apricot lane Farms Haricot vert | Foie Gras torchon “Griotte” | Cherry gel | “Elote” | L8 Harvest Vinaigrette | Chanterelles

2nd Course
Soft shell crab, Pork Belly, Crayfish
Confit Pork Belly | XO Glaze | Miso fava Beans & Sweet peas emulsion | Crayfish | soft shell crab | Chimichurri

3rd Course
Daurade Royale “Printanier”
Lamb “jus” | Young Carrots | Young Kohlrabi | Spring Onions | Basil | Zucchini Blossom| Morels | Garbanzo Gnocchi

4th Course
 Escargot “petit gris” Tostada
    Green Garlic Cremeux |  chipotle | Epazote from the garden | white asparagus | “mousseron”

5th Course
 Sonoma Moulard Duck
 Confit leg,  Roasted Breast, Heart anticucho | potato in Duck fat | Porcini | Mulberries from Apricot lane Farms | Chards from our garden

Timut Black Pepper Blanc-manger |  Apricot “Flora Gold” and Honey from apricot lane farms | peach Sorbet | Pistachio Tuille

Selection of non pasteurized cheeses imported from France
3 cheeses – $12   /   5 cheeses – $20    /   7 cheeses –  $28  

$5 for add’l Cheese / $5 for Truffle Honey
20% gratuity will be added

Twitter: @BistroLQ 


March 2016

Chefs take pride in their ability to produce consistently great food, in a timely fashion, that exceeds the expectations of the guest. This is, after all, the core of their job description. This is difficult to accomplish if vendors fail to produce the right food, at the expected quality level, at the time requested. When vendors fall down in this regard the chef’s system falls apart.
Although I do hate to generalize – far too many salespeople today do not understand the chef, the kitchen, or the product that they are trying to sell. “Where is it from – what farm – what part of the country? How was the animal raised? What is the flavor profile of that pork? What is the typical yield from a case of…? What is the shelf life of that cryovac meat? When was the fish caught and how was it handled?” These are not unusual questions, nor are they unrealistic expectations of a person whose job it is to sell a product.
The real test to punctuality is whether or not the person is present, at the scheduled time, and fully ready to work or engage. Failure in this regard is the quickest way to experience the wrath of a chef.
This one is simple – unless you are in the hospital, or are in the midst of a real family emergency, if you do not show up, or call to explain why, you are done in the chef’s mind. Some chefs lose their cool over this while others simply write the person off. The real tragedy here is the impact that this has on the person’s teammates.
To a chef, this is the most basic requirement of a cook – take care of your tools! When a chef sees a cook with a knife that is unable to perform because there is no proper edge – well, let’s just say that the cook will not have to wait too long to feel the presence of the chef.
Everything that a cook works with has value – not just monetary value, but even more importantly a connection to the hard work and passion of the person (farmer, fisherman, rancher, cheese maker, charcutier) who toiled over the process of growing, raising, or preparing that ingredient. When a cook fails to show respect for this – the chef views it as an affront to all of those individuals, the chef, the restaurant, and the guest who will eventually consume the finished product.
Everybody knows how important this is – label and date, first in-first out. These rules are embedded in every employee’s subconscious in an effort to preserve the quality of ingredients, minimize waste, and make sure that costs are controlled. So – why is it that so many fail to follow this simple rule that takes but a few seconds to accomplish?
Profit margins in a kitchen are very slim. It doesn’t take much to turn a potential profit into a loss. Profitability in a restaurant kitchen is everyone’s responsibility and a good place to start is eliminating or at least – minimizing waste. Use everything! Find a use in stocks, purees, soups, features, staff meals, etc. As a wise French chef once told me: “You don’t make money on the onion – you make it on the onion peel. You don’t make money on the lobster – you make it on the lobster shells.”
We learn to practice mise en place at our stations, and most cooks through trial and error, pick up on this rather quickly. The same mise en place needs to take place throughout the rest of the kitchen. How much time and product is wasted because items were not returned to their rightful home?
Cleanliness is the first rule of the kitchen. Personal cleanliness, uniform cleanliness, station cleanliness and sanitation – these are the absolutes of any kitchen. When a cook doesn’t look or work clean the chef has every right to be livid.
“Chef – taste this and let me know what you think?” This is, of course, a reasonable request by a cook – one that every chef insists on until the cook has built a trustworthy palate. The typical response from a chef would be: “Have you tried it first – what do you think?” When the cook states that he hasn’t tried it yet – the chef sighs with disappointment. This transference of responsibility drives a chef crazy.
It happens – a misplaced item on a shelf, an over-burdened server tray, a plate too hot to handle, or a glass rack stuck in the dish conveyor. Suddenly we have china casualties. We expect this in a kitchen, but we must try to avoid it. That tray of broken dishes might equate to much of today’s profit margin. When carelessness and an aloof attitude result in breakage, or even worse, when people laugh at the broken result – the chef has to pause and collect him or herself.
Whatever it takes, when those dining room doors open, when the bus arrives, when the bride and groom return from the church – the kitchen must be ready. There is no excuse – this is the Cardinal rule. If the kitchen is not ready it is ultimately the chef’s fault – when a cook or other staff are the cause, then the chef’s temperature is near boiling point.
Learn how it should be done, ask questions, make corrections, but when you know how it should be done, it must be done that way each and every time.
Many things happen inside the restaurant that create tension – we deal with this. When a guest causes this tension because he or she feels entitled to do so at the staffs’ expense, then the chef will always come to the defense of the team.
If you don’t know then it is the fault of inadequate training. When you know and fail to execute towards excellence, then the chef will shake his or her head in disbelief. When this happens frequently, then the chef may lose it.
If a staff member fails to step in to help, if he or she is opposed to taking a few minutes to help the dishwasher, if a line cook who is caught up doesn’t see the need to help service staff by clearing trays or making more coffee, if the right hand avoids helping the left hand then a chef will find it necessary to state his or her disappointment.
These are three words that can only be uttered once in a kitchen.

“Closing the Black Truffles 2016 season” Hello Spring 2017

March 2016

Our Fresh black winter truffles (Series 1.0 and 2.0) ended this weekend March 4th, also known as the “Diamonds of Perigord” are at their peak of flavor from December to March and are characterized by an intense aroma and earthy flavor, almost reminiscent of dark chocolate.
The most renowned and tasty wild black truffle is from a specific part of the Dordogne region in France, called the Perigord (that is where my godfather live). The landscape and natural resources of Perigord make it a phenomenal, unspoiled region rich in history and wildlife, with fine quality fresh produce. Perigord has a reputation for duck confit and goose Foie gras products, but it is the heartbeat – the center – for black truffles in France. Our last Black Truffle dinner was March 3rd and here is the menu below to get you ready for our Black truffle season returns in 2017.
So after 2 months of Sold out Black truffles dinners we are making room for Spring with its bounty of gorgeous ingredients from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest and we are delighted. See you in March and April….

The Menu (3/3) 8 courses of black truffles from Perigord – “Closing the Season”

1st Course
Cauliflower Cremeux | Caviar de sologne | Santa Barbara uni | Truffle relish | “Elote”
Savoie, Royal Seyssel, Savoie, France

2nd Course
Truffle Chawan Mushi (steamed egg custard) | Spot Prawn | Ikura
2014 Chablis 1er Cru, Bourgogne, France

3rd Course
Crosnes | Black Chanterelles | First of the season english peas | Pea tendrils | Salted Haddock Beignet | Truffle tapioca
2015, Figari Rose, “Clos Canarelli”, Corse, France

4th Course
Braised endive | Jamón ibérico | truffle soubise | Spiny Lobster
2012, Bengoetxe, getariako Txakolina, Spain

5th Course
John Dory  | wild Watercress emulsion | Miso Salsify | Lardon | Truffle tuille
2015, Muscadet les gras moutons, Loire, France
6th Course
Truffle Celery Root Risotto | “anticucho” duck hearts | Smoked Duck crisp | Leeks
2015, Morgon “Vielles Vignes, Beaujolais, France

7th Course
Last of the season Wood pigeon | cabbage  “Embeurre” of truffles | Boudin blanc | Ramp emulsion | Walnut Foie Gras “gremolata” | Carrot crepe
2014, Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Vacqueyras, Cote du Rhone, France

Cheese cart (Extra)
Cheese selection

8th Course
Ganache Truffle | Pistachio mousseline | Mandarine ice cream | chestnut whipped | matcha meringue

Wishing you the best for 2017.

December 29th was the last Popup @MaMaison for 2016. Here at LQ we are so happy to put 2016 behind and certainly hope that 2017 will be less fraught. We certainly hope we can still smuggle our raw milk cheeses from Europe, worry about getting some awesome ingredients from all over the world without paying additional taxes and tariff on goods that will impede our creativity to deliver the most amazing experiences for which we are well known. But new exciting ideas will be coming to fruition in the coming year -“the restaurant experience in the garden” is planned for the summer, where individual tables will be available at different times to allow guests to enjoy a more intimate experience of our menus, and more like a restaurant in feel. Also more events will be scheduled on regular monthly basis, allowing you to book and plan further in advance. There will also be more Fooding events (our 6 course dinner) and fewer of the @MaMaison (10 course) events. We will also highlight seasonal ingredients by creating a menu around that seasonal ingredient! (e.g Morels, white asparagus, Wild salmon, and many more), and last, but not least, we will take @MaMaison on the road after the summer of 2017! We look forward to sharing great food and wine with you again!

Getting married at LQ @MaMaison? yes of course!

December 16th was a beautiful day @MaMaison. A young couple decided to host their Wedding reception in the garden…..
It was booked many months in advance, during the summer, and we did not anticipate that it would be rainy, and the coldest day of the year so far. We of course used our magic to deliver an incredible experience under the stars, and it was stunning! 10 courses and 9 wines later and a new challenge – opening up future large group buy-outs for a phenomenal food and wine experience!
It is never easy for chefs to create menus and execute tasting menus for events of this kind of scale, for LQ especially. A small gathering is usually the easiest way to enjoy well crafted seasonal dishes and ‘scaling up’ presents some formidable challenges! That is why most high end restaurants have very limited seatings, especially in Europe. Feel free to share your thoughts this topic with us!


What You Can’t Get at the Farmers Market…

I recently took an illicit trip to Tijuana to source an ingredient – Escamoles – which we used as the amuse bouche at the LQ @ SK opening. Accompanying me were a very nice reporter from the New Yorker and a friend of mine who drove us all together on Sunday morning down to a restaurant on the border. Escamoles are Ant Eggs – a delicious and peppery protein that I have been exploring more and more, with the idea that they could be a sustainable protein around the world if people could just get used to eating them and tasting how good they can be. On the way down, we talked a lot about how chef’s source products they cannot order from a supplier, grow themselves or find at the local market. We had a little extra time so we stopped at a farmers market near downtown San Diego and tried some great Ghost Chili salt and fresh herbs as well as oysters from Carlsbad and a FRESH sea urchin that they opened and cleaned right in front of us – we ate it out of a shell with a spoon and some lemon! Our trip was a great success, we headed home with my bag of $75 Ant Eggs and tested them out in the kitchen that week, presenting them sauteed in miniature tortillas to a group of eager and adventurous diners at the LQ @SK opening…they all ate them!

Discovering the Dish

img_blog_plantsI get asked a lot of times, how do I come up with ideas for my food? Well it seems natural to me, because that is what I have been doing since I was 14 years old, that is my art. But I know some people don’t understand that, so I will say that most of the time, I am just tasting different ingredients and flavors and I may taste an herb that is really really fresh or some bread that is still warm and crusty from a REAL baker like The Bread Lounge in downtown LA, and the idea just pops into my head.

I also like to use really fresh vegetables because they are light and delicious, I don’t eat a lot of heavy meats, so i’ve been using fresh peas or kohlrabi root or black rice puree instead of heavy starch like mashed potatoes – they don’t overwhelm the other ingredients as much and when that happens you don’t need as much seasonings or salt to really make the ingredients shine the way they should. Mostly, i am always just trying new flavors, tasting herbs, sauces, and experimenting with combination ideas, when you are always learning, you cannot run out of ideas! My favorite thing lately has been nasturtium flowers from my garden, they are really peppery and delicious and have a bright color so they look good on a plate. You can even eat the leaves!